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So he did it. He caved. He relented. He threw in the towel. John Hall, a fiercely independent whisky maker (or rather, was independent until Campari bought him out, but more on that later) and one that has prided himself on innovation and integrity, has brought to market a spiced whisky. The ingredient list on the label includes Canadian whisky, sugar and natural flavour.
The colour is a deep gold with reddish highlights. Honey, of course, dominates the nose, with banana, mint, vanilla, light caramel, cloves and a hint of rye spice. Fairly straightforward. A drop of water reveals more rye, as usual. Weak but not terrible.
Syrupy in the mouth, with honey but also cloyingly sweet butterscotch, and the faintest hint of some indeterminate spice. Somehow water makes it even more syrupy. Yuck.
The finish is spicier, with even a hint of smoke - and more sticky sweet honey/caramel. Not the worst Frankenwhisky I've had, but damn close. I haven't tried this as a mixer yet so I cannot completely discount it, but I was hoping for better from John Hall, even in the deeply troubled category of spiced whisky. So let's look at the timeline. March 2014: Campari buys Forty Creek, keeps John Hall on as whisky maker, publicly promising that he will have all the freedom and independence that he has always had in crafting his spirit. Six months later, in September, Hall launches two new whiskies: 2014 Evolution (which I just reviewed) and Spike Honey Spiced, the two worst whiskies he has ever made. Do you think that it was John Hall's decision to bring a spiced whisky to market? I seriously doubt it. I sincerely hope this is not a harbinger of the future of this distillery, but given the new ownership, it very well may be.